Smoke free laws protect health and save lives worldwide

In a report out today (8 February 2005) from the BMA's Tobacco Control Resource Centre (TCRC), doctors' leaders from eight countries, including Scotland, describe the success of anti-smoking legislation.

The report, "Smoke-free world, doctors' notes on clean air laws", shows the benefits of laws that prohibit smoking in enclosed public places. These stories from the frontline also dispel the common myths spun by opponents. They show that such doomsday scenarios simply do not happen in real life.

The case notes include:

  • The Californian Medical Association reporting that lung cancer rates have fallen six times faster in California than in US States without smoke-free laws since 1998
  • The Irish Medical Organisation relating that cigarette sales fell by almost 16% in the first six months of the ban, and over 7,000 smokers quit in the six months before the law came into force
  • Advice from the Norwegian Medical Association that other countries should learn from their experience, and reject ineffective ventilation systems and designated smoking areas

Dr Peter Terry, Chairman of BMA Scottish Council said:

"We are delighted that Scotland features in this report. It not only shows that Scotland is following the right decisions made by other countries regarding smoke free enclosed public places, but that it is leading the way for the other UK countries.

"Scotland has the highest smoking rates of any part of the UK and our smoke-filled rooms have taken their toll on the nation's health. When Scotland goes smoke-free it will be a triumph not just for the people of Scotland but also for devolution. But we simply can't understand why bar staff in Liverpool have been deemed less worthy of protection than their counterparts in Lanarkshire."

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's Head of Science and Ethics, called on the Secretary of State for Health, John Reid, to listen to what doctors around the world are saying about second-hand smoke:

"I hope John Reid listens to these doctors' testimonies - their only interest is the health of their patients. In the recent White Paper on Public Health for England, John Reid announced plans that will partially ban smoking in enclosed public places. These doctors are telling us that partial measures don't work. If you work in a Government building you'll be lucky, but if you work in a pub that does not serve food, you'll have a greater chance of developing lung cancer or heart disease.

"It's time for the UK Government to play fair, and protect everyone from exposure to second-hand smoke at work."

Sir Richard Doll, a contributor to the report and one of the doctors who discovered the link between lung cancer and smoking in 1950, said:

"As recently as 2003, one UK tobacco company that it did not know whether smoking causes lung cancer. Now tobacco companies are using the same techniques to undermine the conclusion that passive smoking causes fatal disease.

The evidence that it does is clear. As a responsible citizen, I believe that nobody should have to work in an atmosphere polluted by other people's smoke."

The report will be sent to leading politicians from all parties in the UK and to parliamentarians in Europe and around the world.

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